The uneven geography of the COVID-19 crisis

Type Working Paper - NIDS-CRAM Working Paper
Title The uneven geography of the COVID-19 crisis
Issue 14
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2020
This paper analyses the impact of the pandemic on different parts of South Africa, bearing in mind their contrasting vulnerability and resilience. It compares the severity of the initial COVID-19 shock (February-April 2020) and the subsequent trajectory (April-June) of the metros, smaller cities/towns and rural areas. It also considers the different impacts within cities – between suburbs, townships, shack areas and peri-urban areas. A key question is whether COVID-19 has aggravated pre-existing spatial disparities? A second question is whether government social support has helped to mitigate these gaps in income and well-being? The paper reveals that the pandemic has magnified the existing economic and social divides (i) between cities and rural areas, and (ii) between suburbs and townships/informal settlements within cities. Government grants have helped to offset the large economic disparities between places, but the incidence of hunger is still much higher in informal settlements, townships and rural areas than in suburbs. There is a strong case for more targeted efforts to boost jobs and livelihoods in lagging urban and rural areas. Pre-existing conditions were bad enough, but now there is further ground to make up, and the withdrawal of temporary relief grants could be a serious setback for poor communities and groups reliant on cash transfers.

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